You are on page 1of 36

r 2010 The Author

Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd


Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK, and
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
METAPHILOSOPHY
Vol. 41, No. 4, July 2010
0026-1068

FORGIVENESS, COMMEMORATION, AND


RESTORATIVE JUSTICE:
THE ROLE OF MORAL EMOTIONS
JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

Abstract: Forgiveness of wrongdoing in response to public apology and amends


making seems, on the face of it, to leave little room for the continued commemoration
of wrongdoing. This rests on a misunderstanding of forgiveness, however, and we can
explain why there need be no incompatibility between them. To do this, I emphasize
the role of what I call nonangry negative moral emotions in constituting memories of
wrongdoing. Memories so constituted can persist after forgiveness and have
important moral functions, and commemorations can elicit these emotions to
preserve memories of this sort. Moreover, commemorations can be a restorative
justice practice that promotes reconciliation, but only on condition that the memories
they preserve are constituted by nonangry negative, not retributive, emotions.
Keywords: angry moral emotions, apology, commemorative ceremonies, forgiveness,
nonangry moral emotions, protest, reconciliation, restorative justice, self-respect.

1. Two Restorative Justice Practices: Apology and Forgiveness and


Commemoration
Societies seeking to emerge from periods of mass violence and widespread
human rights violations are often said to confront two antagonistic if not
mutually incompatible imperatives. One of these is to see to it that justice
is done, which commonly means punishing the offenders and providing
whatever compensation is possible for the victims; the other is to rebuild
political, legal, and other institutions so that violence and oppression will
end, peace will be restored, and victims can henceforth live without fear
or mistrust. The realization of one goal, it is alleged, impedes that of the
other, so choices have to be made: the pursuit of justice imperils the
desired rehabilitation of society; urgent necessities such as political
transformation and constitution making require curtailing the pursuit
of justice. However, there are two reasons to question these assertions.
The rst is empirical. Whether and to what extent the backward-looking
task of punishing perpetrators is compatible with the forward-looking
task of social reconstruction cannot be determined without considering
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

583

particular details about the society in question and its history, and how
the punishment is decided and carried out, and generalizing about how
societies experience dealing with past wrongdoing is fraught with difculty. The second is theoretical, and it is the one I want to emphasize.
Punitive justice and compensatory justice are not the only conceptions of
transitional justice that have application here. There is another according
to which justice can arguably be done through processes that are not at
odds with but further the project of mending the social fabric and
restoring community. This is restorative justice, and it has received
increasing attention in recent years (see Hamber 2009; Bennett 2008;
Rotberg and Thompson 2000; Walker 2006; Dzur and Wertheimer 2002;
Govier 2002; Marshall 2003; Minow 1998).
The aims of restorative justice clearly distinguish it from both punitive
and compensatory justice. Restorative justice practices, of which there are
different kinds, seek to repair the harm caused by wrongdoing; make the
experiences and needs of the victims central to the justice process; and
demand genuine accountability and responsibility taking from the perpetrators. Punishment of the perpetrators is not precluded, but neither is it
emphasized, since it does not offer them the opportunity to gain
reacceptance or reintegration into their communities. And while compensation is often sought for the victims, it does not exhaust the range of
reparative acts that can achieve what is said to be a central objective of
restorative justice, namely, to restore the dignity of the victims.
Two sorts of restorative practices are highlighted in this article: (1)
processes of public apology and forgiveness and (2) commemorative
ceremonies, in the sense in which Paul Connerton uses the term (Connerton 1989). I select these two practices for several reasons. First,
because they are frequently mentioned in the restorative justice literature;
second, because there are interesting connections and tensions between
them that have not been adequately explored; and third, because each is
essentially related to memory and because the role of memory in dealing
with injustice and oppression, and the importance of memory for
achieving the aims of restorative justice, warrant additional philosophical
attention. On the last point, forgiveness is not genuine forgiveness, it is
often noted, if it merely results from forgetting the wrong that was done:
in forgiving, one must retain a memory of what was done and continue to
hold the original negative objection to the offense or wrong action. And
commemorative ceremonies, as the name implies, depend on and seek to
preserve memory, in this case, the memory of wrongdoing, in a communal
activity of co-remembrance (see Casey 2000). The involvement of memory
in these restorative practices warrants our saying that memory, being
necessary for both forgiveness and commemoration, is valuable to the
extent that and for the reasons that these practices are valuable, among
which is their role in realizing restorative justice. This is true as far as it
goes, but it does not go far enough. For it does not tell us enough about
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

584

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

what exactly remembering wrongdoing has to do with what is valuable


about these practices or what specic contribution remembering makes to
their value. Of course, these are not the only ways in which memory
participates in approaches to transitional justice: criminal prosecution of
offenders also depends upon memory. But I do not discuss it here because
my concern is restorative justice, and it is as constitutive of practices of
public apology and forgiveness and public commemoration that memory
contributes to the project of restorative justice.
Transitions are commonly characterized by powerful angry emotions
among victims and survivors directed at the leaders, agents, and collaborators of the former unjust regime (see Hamber 2009, 11822). Their
crimes may still be fresh in the minds of the victims and their survivors;
the memories of wrongdoing are recent, urgent, vivid, and highly charged,
imbued with and sustained by many of the same retributive emotions of
resentment, anger, and hatred that the victims initially felt in response to
the wrongdoing. In time, these memories may fade if the anger that fed
them cools and subsides, which may happen even if the perpetrators and
their collaborators have not been forgiven. And to some extent it is a
good thing that this happens, since these retributive emotions (which can
also be called angry emotions or, better, emotions of moral anger) must
be moderated if the necessary work of repairing the social relationships
breached by violence and injustice is to get done and trust is to be
restored. However, for those who, and I count myself among them,
believe that there is value in preserving the memory of wrongdoing, quite
apart from whether the offenders have been forgiven for it, there is a
cause for concern here as well. For as I will argue, memories are sustained
by the emotions that constitute them and that they trigger. There may be
good reasons why the anger and resentment should eventually subside.
But once they do, the memories may fade with them, and then what could
take their place in the work of preserving memory?
The memory of being wronged normally involves the memory of a past
emotional state, since anger is a normal response to wrongdoing when
one is wronged. The memory of a past emotional state can be retained in
an emotionally neutral way or in some cases, especially where the memory
is of serious wrongdoing, it can trigger and be constituted by a current
emotional experience. In other words, one can have a memory of an
emotional event with or without having an emotional memory of that
event (see Lambert et al. 2009). There is also considerable evidence from
experimental cognitive psychology, and common everyday experience
supports the view as well, that the memory of emotional events,
particularly events that generated strong emotional reactions, tends to
persist longer than the memory of emotionally neutral events. That is, the
deterioration of memory is slowed down, perhaps for a considerable
period of time, because of the emotional reaction at the time the memories
are laid down (Bower 1992). There is also some evidence from psychology
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

585

that suggests emotions experienced during recall tend to strengthen


memories and produce better long-term retention (see Singer and Conway
2008; Heuer and Reisberg 1992; Elster 2004).1 Emotion, of course, cannot
prevent, it can only retard, forgetting. Measures might be taken to
combat forgetting, to delay its onset and progress, yet even with these
remembrance cannot be ensured, and memory fades. Sometimes this is a
reason for regret or shame or remorse. But not always. There may in fact
be advantages to forgetting, even to cultivating the ability to forget
appropriately, in the short as well as long term, as Nietzsche argued so
persuasively against the history fetishists of his time (Nietzsche 1997).
Granting that memory is not an unqualied good, there may nevertheless
be moral reasons not to forget and moral value in not forgetting. If so, the
decay of memory should be regarded as a moral problem, a problem for
which we need to nd some type of solution, even if only of limited
effectiveness. Questions like these would be important to ask and answer:
How does memory persist or how can it be made to persist, for individuals
as well as communities, if the various kinds of moral anger are overcome or
repudiated in forgiveness or simply dissipate with the passage of time? If the
response to wrongdoing is to be capable of sustaining the memory of it, but
the retributive emotions do not and should not carry the burden of doing
so, might other emotions be able to do so, and how can they be enlisted to
sustain it? And underlying these questions, of course, are others: What
valuemoral, social, and psychologicalis there in remembering wrongdoing, such that preserving the memory of it is desirable? And how do the
memories that survive after anger is overcome by forgiveness or simply
fades realize this value? These are all questions that I want to address in one
way or another in this article.
I said above that forgiveness is dependent on the memory of wrongdoing
and that commemoration is an activity of remembering together, but on
some views their respective relations to memory put them at odds with each
other. This is clear if one holds that it is conceptual of forgiveness, or at least
true or genuine forgiveness, that it ends in forgetting the wrong done to
oneself. For if this is the case, one wonders what role, if any, commemoration of wrongdoing is to play after forgiveness has been achieved and how
the wrongdoing can be commemorated. Against this, I believe that views
that drive a wedge between forgiveness and commemoration largely stem
from a misunderstanding of what forgiveness accomplishes. Forgetting is
not the normal result of forgiving: forgiveness commonly does not wipe the
slate clean of all negative emotions and all negative emotional memories of
1

In correspondence, Matthew Liao has drawn my attention to empirical studies that


provide some support for the claim that a subject performing tasks involving emotions
might yield better memory performance than does performing tasks that do not involve
emotions. For some literature, see Brooks et al. 1999; Hornstein and Mulligan 2001;
Engelkamp and Seiler 2003.
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

586

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

being wronged.2 Negative emotions often persist, perhaps should persist, to


color the memories of the forgiver even after she has forgiven the offender.3
Indeed, these emotions do more than color: they also tend to preserve the
memory of wrongdoing, and if and when they are shared among the
survivors and others in the community in the context of commemorative
ceremonies, the memory is sustained for them all. So since memories of
wrongdoing can persist after forgiveness, allegations of a necessary antagonism or incompatibility between forgiveness and postforgiveness commemoration fail. Not only this, commemorative ceremonies might be able
to draw on the same sort of moral emotions that can persist after
forgiveness has been achieved, in which case practices of apology followed
by forgiveness and commemoration could work together more or less
harmoniously to promote the aims of restorative justice. This is, in fact,
what I will be arguing in this article.
In order to explain the moral value of commemorations and how they can
help solve the decay of memory problem, I need to clarify the conception of
commemoration that I am adopting here. Commemoration is a kind of
memorial that, in addition to or in tandem with monuments and museums,
can preserve the public memory of the victims and raise moral consciousness
about past abuses. As I conceive of it, commemoration is carried out in
commemorative ceremonies, which constitute a type of ritual action. One of
the central features of ritual is repetitiveness, and this provides part of the
explanation of how commemorations can be useful in slowing the deterioration of memory. Besides the repetitiveness of commemorative ceremonies,
their mnemonic potential is enhanced by another of their characteristic
features: disciplined emotionality. This feature helps to explain not only how
commemorative ceremonies work to preserve memories but also, among
other things, how they enable participants to remember wrongdoing in the
right way, that is, as wrongdoing. For it follows from a plausible view about
the relationship between values and emotions that remembering it in the
right way requires that those who remember be disposed to have emotional
memories of it. More precisely, it requires memories that are animated by
moral sentiments that constitute tting responses to it.
These preliminary remarks highlight the connection between memory
and emotion, and because it is this connection that I want to explore, I
adopt a particular conception of forgiveness in the context of my
discussion of restorative justice practicenot an idiosyncratic one to be
sure, but not the only one on offer. On my view, forgiveness is or involves
2
One might respond that forgiving does end in forgetting if by forgetting one means no
longer holding the wrong against the offender. However, not holding it against the offender
and not remembering what he did are different matters.
3
Avishai Margalit argues that successful forgiveness . . . ends in forgetting the wrong
done to us (2002, 208). However, by forgetting he apparently means to exclude only
remembering that reignites resentment and vengefulness. Trudy Govier argues that typically, to forgive is to rememberbut in a way that is not bitter and resentful (2002, 60).

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

587

a process of emotional self-transformation or, if we are referring to


communal forgiveness, a process through which a community comes to
feel differently about the wrongs done to it and its members.4 Now
though forgiveness is commonly thought of this way, as sentiment based,
and this is how the literature of restorative justice tends to view it, there is
a very different account according to which sentiment is not an essential
constituent of the process or outcome of forgiveness. We can call this the
performative conception of forgiveness.5 On some performative views, we
can intelligibly speak about forgiveness, in interpersonal no less than in
political contexts, in the absence of negative emotions of any sort. The
overcoming of anger may come about as a result of the process of
forgiveness, but it is not one of its dening features; and after forgiveness
has been granted, negative emotions may linger or not. As a result, the
sentiments associated with mechanisms for retarding the decay of
memory may be morally signicant in sentiment-based views in ways
that are not in performative views.
The article is organized as follows. Section 2 claries my account of
forgiveness by distinguishing it from performative accounts that disconnect
forgiveness from moral emotions. Section 3 gives an account of the moral
value of emotionally remembering wrongdoing, both before and after the
offender has been forgiven for it. I argue that for the victims of wrongdoing, though anger and hostility toward the offender may be overcome,
negative moral emotions toward him may linger and may animate
memories of wrongdoing, and when they do so, the emotions constitute
a sort of continuing protest against or rejection of the diminution implied
by that wrongdoing. There are other reasons to remember as well, two of
which are briey discussed and related to moral emotions in section 4. One
is that memories of wrongdoing, when sustained, provide the basis for the
pursuit of other worthwhile goals, one of which is helping present and
future generations avoid a repetition of the earlier violence and injustice.
Another is that remembering the victims who did not survive is one way of
giving them the honor that they deserve and that we, as individuals or
members of families or communities, owe them.
Section 5 continues exploring the relationship between morality,
memory, and emotion by considering the moral import of certain features
of commemorative ceremonies. It seems to be a feature of memory
generally, and the memory of wrongdoing in particular, that it tends to
lose its vividness and motivating force over time. This process can be
checked somewhat, however, if the memories are coupled with and trigger
4

I assume but cannot argue for it here that groups, at least small ones, as well as
individuals are capable of forgiving. See Govier 2002, 7899. Jean Bethke Elshtain claims
that forgiveness primarily takes place between persons, or perhaps small communities
(2003, 47).
5
This view is described and defended in Dzur and Wertheimer 2002; Digeser 2001.
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

588

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

emotional responses. My suggestion is that commemorative ceremonies


are valuable in part because they can help sustain the memory of
wrongdoing in a way that is consistent with the aims of restorative
justice, if they are designed to draw upon negative emotions different
from the retributive emotions that generally attend the perception of
being wronged. These negative nonretributive emotions can, and often
do, surface or linger after forgiveness has been achieved, so there is no inprinciple incompatibility between forgiveness and commemoration. Of
course, social and political realities may be such that commemoration is
not, as a practical matter, feasible if forgiveness is to be sustained. I also
do not want to discount the regressive potential of commemorative
ceremonies. On the contrary, the positive appraisal of commemorative
ceremonies that I offer is tempered by an acknowledgment of the risk that
such ceremonies can pose for the successful implementation of restorative
justice. The risk is that commemoration will be the occasion for incitement rather than reconciliation by reviving and reigniting the very
retributive moral sentiments that the wrongdoing originally elicited.
By way of a nal claricatory note to situate the next two sections on
forgiveness in the context of a discussion of restorative justice, I am not
equating forgiveness with restorative justice or proposing that forgiveness
is a restorative justice practice.6 The example I gave above of a restorative
justice practice is public apology leading to forgiveness. The conception
of forgiveness that explains its role in the realization of restorative justice,
that is, as a component of a transitional justice approach that emphasizes
the accountability of offenders and their responsibility to make reparation to victims, does not see forgiveness as undemanding or unconditional. The victim who forgivesif she does forgive, which she might
notdoes not refrain from blaming the offender and demanding that he
take responsibility for what he has done and make amends, at least by
offering an apology. Indeed, she may well demand more, especially if she
has been the victim of serious wrongdoing. She will want the offender to
take concrete steps to repair the damage he has caused and to provide
tangible proof that his relationship with the victim will be different in the
future.7 She will also want her community to acknowledge her right to
make such demands and to assist her in gaining satisfaction of them.

6
The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission made a signicant contribution to transforming attitudes about the nature of transitional justice, but it made
forgiveness the central task of restorative justice. See Hamber 2009, 78; Brudholm 2008,
4256.
7
On some understandings of what an apology consists in, these practical steps are
included in it. Nick Smith distinguishes between different sorts of apologies, one of which he
calls the categorical apology, which includes taking practical responsibility for the harm
she causes, providing commensurate remedies and other incommensurable forms of redress
to the best of her ability (2008, 14042).

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

589

2. An Opening Clarication: Forgiveness as Policy or as Sentiment?


The dominant conception of forgiveness in the philosophical literature sees
it as involving the overcoming or giving up on moral grounds of negative
emotionschiey resentment and other angry emotions that share its
featuresthat are naturally directed toward a wrongdoer because of his
wrongdoing (see Allais 2008; Griswold 2007; Benbaji and Heyd 2001). It is
sentiment based because it sees forgiveness as a matter of loosening the grip
of these powerful negative sentiments. This is not the only account that
qualies as sentiment based, however, at least in the sense in which I want to
use the term. A sentiment-based account may hold, with Margaret Walker,
that there are many negative feelings that are likely to occur instead of or
alongside angry ones, and that overcoming these can in some instances
constitute forgiveness (Walker 2006, 15455). Sentiment-based views can
also accept, and some explicitly do, that various bad feelings of a nonangry
sort occasioned by the wrongdoing, such as disappointment and sadness,
can linger after forgiveness has been achieved. But they all reject, as
incompatible with forgiveness, the continuation of unmoderated resentment, and I adopt this understanding in what follows. Moreover, what all
sentiment-based accounts have in common is the contention that forgiveness is a matter of psychology consisting in a change of heart toward the
offender for moral reasons, a change that does not leave resentment and
other retributive feelings dominant.
In contrast to sentiment-based accounts are those that see forgiveness
as essentially involving a decision of some sort. In one formulation, it
involves a decision to free the offender from his obligation to make
amends for his wrong. In another formulation, it involves undertaking a
commitment to refrain from using certain reasons, namely, those relating
to having suffered a wrong, as justication for treating the offender in
certain hostile ways. As Avishai Margalit puts it, forgiveness is a policy
of adopting an exclusionary reason with regard to someone who has
wronged us (2002, 2023). On a performative view of forgiveness, to say
I forgive you for having wronged me is not to imply that I have a
change of heart (which may or may not happen) and no longer harbor
resentment or other angry feelings toward you. Rather, it implies that I
commit myself not to hold the fact of your having wronged me against
you in (some of) the ways I relate to you. Difcult though it may be, I can
continue to be angry at you and still adopt a forgiving policy toward you.
Moreover, communication of ones decision is essential for successful
performance. Forgiveness is an illocutionary act whose successful performance requires the publication of, and the offenders recognition of, ones
intention to release him from his reparative obligations, not the repudiation of hard feelings. In this respect, forgiving someone resembles saying
I do as part of a wedding ceremony: success in marrying requires
publicizing ones intention to be married and the others recognition of
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

590

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

this intention (see Dzur and Wertheimer 2002; Digeser 2001; Maitra
2009). There is this further similarity: just as more than publication and
recognition of the speakers intention to get married is required for the
utterance to count as actually marrying, more is required for forgiveness.
For example, I cannot forgive if I do not have the standing to do so.
It might be thought that what we have here are not really two
competing conceptions of forgiveness but two conceptions each of which
maps onto a different domain of human interaction: one is the interpersonal (sentiment based), the other the impersonal or political (performative). I doubt, however, that this way of characterizing the distinction
can hold up, for even in interpersonal contexts I forgive you sometimes
has the sense given it by performative accounts. One might reply that in
interpersonal contexts, to say I forgive you without some change of
heart toward the offender is merely to utter certain words. But this is false,
for there are behavioral consequences to the granting of forgiveness, as
this is understood by performative accounts. For example, it would be
inconsistent with a victims adoption of a policy of forgiveness toward an
offender to continue to demand additional apologies from him.
My main aim here, however, is not to argue for one type of view in
preference to the other. Both conceptions, I believe, express something
important about forgiveness, and each sheds light on how forgiveness in
response to apology can function to promote restorative justice. Rather, I
am more interested in using performative accounts as a foil to the sort of
view I want to outline here. The key difference has to do with the role they
assign sentiments and how they evaluate these from a moral point of view.
Because performative accounts essentially disconnect forgiveness from
anger and other negative emotions, their explanation of the value of these
emotions is necessarily restricted to their implications for policy. That is,
they are not in a position to explain why having negative feelings toward the
wrongdoer because of his wrongdoing, and why giving up some but perhaps
not all of them, might be matters of moral importance in themselves apart
from their bearing on the victims treatment of the offender. On performative accounts, certain negative emotions, especially the retributive ones, may
be signicant in that they prevent the victim from really adopting a policy of
forgiveness toward the offender. Otherwise, they are indifferent to whether
the victim feels these emotions or not. This is not the case with the
sentiment-based account I argue for. On this view, the sentiments are moral
emotions that are intimately bound up with the moral integrity of the victim
and that have expressive point and value.
Of course, it would be unfair to criticize performative views for failing
to succeed at something they werent trying to do, that is, explain what
makes certain negative emotions centrally important to forgiveness. And
some sentiment-based views might not have much to say about these
negative feelings beyond noting that it is a feature of normal human
psychology that wrongdoing arouses anger in the victim and that
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

591

forgiveness doesnt entail the elimination of all negative feelings toward


the offender. Still, an account that focuses on the role of negative
emotions in relation to forgiveness has the potential to explain what
performative views cannot. It can add signicantly to our understanding
of forgiveness as a moral phenomenon by giving an account of the moral
value of its attendant emotionsboth those that are present before and
those that are present after forgiveness is attainedthat is not merely
instrumental and that does not only focus on their implications for the
adoption of policy toward others. It is to this that I now turn.
3. Elaborating a Sentiment-Based Account of Forgiveness
How do we respond emotionally to being wrongfully harmed? What rst
comes to mind are angry or hostile emotions like resentment, indignation,
hatred, and vengefulness. Being unjustiably and inexcusably injured
seems naturally to generate an aggressive response and a desire for
revenge.8 This is especially true with respect to the sort of wrongs,
namely, human rights violations, that are the concern of transitional
justice.9 But wrongful harming doesnt only prompt some type of angry
feeling. According to Margaret Walker, the emotions that wrongdoing
provokes are much more diverse than this: Aside from anger, resentment, contempt, indignation, wrath, rage, hatred, scorn and vengefulness,
being harmed wrongly can cause disappointment, hurt, heartbreak,
sadness, despair, pessimism, mistrust, helplessness, and hopelessness;
also disgust, anguish, shame, guilt, humiliation, fear, or terror (2006,
155). Now it might seem that Walker is being insufciently discriminating
here. For forgiveness, it might be argued, involves overcoming or
forswearing only certain negative emotional responses to wrongdoing,
those that are moral in nature, whereas some of the emotions on Walkers
list, like sadness and disappointment, do not seem to be of this sort. The
negative emotions that play a role in forgiveness are moral in the sense
that they are partially constituted by the belief that one has been
wrongfully harmed or done an unjustied and nonexcused injury, and
resentment is generally regarded as the central case. But if this is what
makes an emotion a moral emotion, then all of the emotions on Walkers
list could, on occasion, be moral. To be sure, sadness is not essentially a
moral emotion. It is not a moral emotion when the sadness I feel is
8
Resentment can be classied as a kind of moral anger. Paul Hughes lists some other
candidates including animosity, indignation, wrath, malice, contempt, and possibly even
disgust, to name but a few. These are cases of moral anger if and only if they are partially
constituted by the belief that one has been wrongfully harmed (Hughes 1997, 3738).
9
Brandon Hamber reports that my experience and research in a range of countries has
demonstrated that the idea of attaining retributive and penal justice for human rights
violations is centrally important to victims. Contrary to popular perceptions of the South
African TRC, my experience of the process suggests that most victims favored punishment
of the perpetrators. This included calls for retributive action (2009, 118).

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

592

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

because I lost my favorite ring or because my friend and I have drifted


apart. But sometimes I can be sad precisely in recognition of my having
been betrayed, for example, by a friend I had good reason to believe I
could trust. It counts as moral in this case because it is partially
constituted by the same generic belief that constitutes resentment.
Further, it counts as a moral emotion because, looking at the deed
from my friends standpoint and putting myself in his place, it would
be appropriate for me to feel guilt or shame at having done what he did.
So there seems to be no reason in principle to limit forgiveness to
the overcoming or forswearing of angry moral emotions. Those who
follow the prescription to turn the other cheek and have acquired the
ability to repress or extinguish angry feelings might still have emotional
work to do in order to forgive those who have wronged them.
It is also possible for some of the emotions on Walkers list to surface
or remain after forgiveness has been achieved, and not merely as a kind of
emotional residuum without moral meaning but, like the negative
emotions before forgiveness, partially constituted by the belief that one
has been wrongly harmed. Forgiveness need not, and commonly does not,
wipe the emotional slate clean, eliminating all negative moral emotions. I
can forgive you for your rudeness and continue to be hurt and saddened
by your insensitivity; I can get over my anger at you for your insulting
behavior but nevertheless remain cautious and somewhat mistrustful of
you because of it. However, this view about the emotions subsequent to
the achievement of forgiveness presents me with a problem that I ought to
say something about before moving on.
Standard accounts tell us that forgiveness cannot have been achieved if
resentment and other angry emotions persist and no effort is made to
moderate them. But if, following Walker, we can have cases in which it is
some negative nonangry emotion that has to be overcome for forgiveness
to be achieved, this effectively blurs the distinction between the before and
the after of forgiveness in terms of the emotions involved. For example,
there can be disappointment and hurt before forgiveness that impede the
ability to forgive; and they can also remain after forgiveness has been
achieved. This raises the question of what the difference between pre- and
postforgiveness consists in when the same sorts of emotions are involved
in both. These are problems that standard sentiment-based accounts of
forgiveness do not have to deal with, since they draw a fairly sharp
dividing line between the negative emotions that forgiveness overcomes
and whatever emotions remain after forgiveness has been achieved.
In general, the emotional state of the victim prior to forgiveness must
be different from his emotional state after. The challenge for my view
arises from what implicitly follows from Walkers claimwith which I
agreeabout the diversity of emotions that forgiveness may have to
overcome: namely, there can be negative moral emotions before and after
forgiveness that are tokens of the same type. Though I do not have the
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

593

space to respond at length to this concern, let me suggest how it might be


addressed. It will not do to say that the emotions that must be overcome
for forgiveness to take place are moral emotions, whereas those that
remain are not. I have already rejected this proposal on the grounds that
the negative emotions that remain after forgiveness has been achieved can
themselves be constituted by the belief that one has been wronged.
Another suggestion is to use such terms as profound and deep to
mark the emotions that fall in the former category. Thus, though hurt and
disappointment may continue after forgiveness has been achieved, the
reason they have to be overcome in order for forgiveness to take place is
that, as we might say, the hurt and disappointment are profound or deep.
However, this suggestion merely indicates what needs to be explained and
does not describe the features of the emotional experience that make it
profound. Mere endurance is precisely not one of these features. Other more
plausible explanations are that a profound negative emotional response to
being wronged is a response that makes it extremely difcult for the injured
party to reconcile with the offender; or a response whose practical effects the
injured party is unsure of being able to control;10 or a response that
destabilizes the injured partys psychological and emotional equilibrium.
These are some of the tests that, singly or in combination, can be useful in
determining whether an emotion impedes forgiveness or can remain after it.
I have argued that the negative emotions that need to be overcome or
moderated for forgiveness to take place, on the one hand, and the
negative emotions that are compatible with it and can remain or surface
after it has been achieved, on the other, may have this much in common:
they are moral emotions constituted in part by the belief that one has been
unjustiably and inexcusably wronged. I now want to advance a further
claim about what, as moral emotions, they may have in common in
addition to being constituted by a particular belief. Roughly speaking,
negative emotions may be moral not only in the sense that they invoke
moral concepts and their associated principles (Rawls 1971, 481) but also
in the sense that they are bound up with the integrity of the moral person,
with being a person who is cognizant of her moral entitlements and
unwilling to acquiesce in their violation.
As a preliminary formulation of this idea, I propose that they are
forms of protest against the insult and diminution implicit in mistreatment. Now protest might seem to be an unduly dramatic way of talking
about some of the emotions on Walkers list. Perhaps we ought to count
an emotional response to wrongdoing as a protest only if it is aggressive
10
Take anger to make the point. Angry feelings have to be overcome in order to achieve
forgiveness, and this can be an enormously difcult process with little guarantee of success.
After forgiving, angry feelings have been sufciently moderated, although they can nevertheless occasionally resurface. The distinction between before and after might then be drawn
in terms of how well the victim is able to control his anger. The victim has to struggle to
control his anger before he forgives, and can more easily and predictably control it after.

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

594

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

or contentious. This strikes me as somewhat arbitrary, however, since


common usage allows that protests can include muted and noncombative
forms of dissent. Nevertheless, I wont press the point. Instead, I will refer
to some of the emotions on Walkers list as quasi-protests against
wrongdoing. All protests, however, whether full or only quasi, are
communicative acts in which a message is conveyed to an audience
with the intention of getting the audience to recognize the agents
intention to protest and to respond in appropriate ways, as circumstances
determine. If the protest is an emotional one in response to wrongdoing,
the victim normally communicates the emotions he experiences, and his
way of experiencing them, to others, especially to the perpetrator. Even
noncombative forms of emotional dissent must satisfy this condition if
they are to count as a kind of protest.
With this in mind, a fuller statement of my proposal is this: under the
right conditions, some of the negative moral emotions that remain after
forgiveness has been achieved, as well as the negative moral emotions that
the individual must overcome to forgive, are forms of protest or quasiprotest in the sense that they announce the selfs distress at being mistreated
and manifest its refusal to regard the mistreatment as insignicant.11 The
negative emotions show that the injured party not only believes that she has
been wronged but, further, that she cares about it and is unwilling to put it
behind her. The terminology of protest is an apt way of drawing attention to
some of what makes restorative justice a distinctive form of transitional
justice, specically, its emphasis on empowerment and recognition of
victims. Through protest, victims confront wrongdoers and actively participate in the process of doing justice. Protest also enables victims to move
recognition of their moral standing and psychological needs to a more
central place in the justice process, something that often does not happen
when wrongdoers are subject to criminal prosecutions.
Philip Fishers discussion of anger is a good place to begin to explain
how the diverse moral emotions involved in forgiveness and its aftermath
function and what their moral signicance is (Fisher 2002). The
excitations of anger, he tells us, mark out the places where self-worth
or honor has been transgressed (176). He does not mean to assert this of
all instances of anger, which would be false if he did, but only those where
injustice has been felt (17677), which characterizes what we can call
moral anger. Moral anger does not simply convey to others that an injury
has been experienced as a slight or insult, however. It also insists that I
have the right to be honored and not slighted (184) and defends a
measure of self-esteem, or of endangered self-regard through a combination of external protest and warning (195). As protest, it insist[s] and
11
Distress is a generic term meant to cover various forms of upset that, in the cases
under consideration, attend the belief that one has been wronged. Anger is one kind of
distress; sadness, grief, and disappointment are others.

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

595

declare[s] that I will maintain a certain perimeter of my own worth (188).


To get angry at injustice is to notice and insist on it and to announce that
one will not act as though nothing has happened. As warning, it puts the
other on notice that any next action will be costly (187). Further, the
relationship between moral anger and what one takes to be an injustice is
bidirectional. Sometimes moral anger is a response to what one perceives
is a violation of ones right to be honored and not slighted. On other
occasions, the order of explanation is reversed: what one takes to be an
injustice is revealed by what arouses ones anger: Because it is not
predictable in advance, in many cases, whether or to what degree I will be
angry, I in fact learn about the extent of the radius of self-worth that I am
committed to maintaining (or not) by what can at times be the surprise of
nding myself enraged (188). In these ways, anger announces or
discovers to me, insofar as I feel exactly this degree of anger, the contours
or importance of my sense of self-worth (19394).
Like Fisher, I dont want to restrict this observation to anger. The
outlines of his analysis have wider application and can deepen our
understanding of the signicance of other negative moral emotions that
gure in my sentiment-based account of forgiveness. The various sorts of
angry emotions are not the only negative moral emotions that can reveal
the contours and importance of my sense of self-worth, not the only ones
that insist on my right to respect. Anger can serve rather as a template
(196) for a range of nonangry negative emotions as well, and what the
analysis claims about anger can extend with some modications to other
emotions. When expressed, my sadness or disappointment or grief over
having been harmed by someone I trusted, for example, or the shame I
might feel for having been so trusting of him, no less than my anger at him
for this harm, can be a way of drawing moral attention to the harm and of
announcing that something just happened here (187). Communicating
these emotions can also show, if implicitly, that one holds the offender
responsible and blameworthy for what he has done. These other negative
emotions do not necessarily indicate passive acceptance of or submission
to wrongdoing. On the contrary, they may just be different reactions to
wrongdoing that reveal where the boundaries of ones self-regard lie,
different ways of pointing out to the offender that one holds his wrongdoing against him and will not merely gloss over acts that imply the
diminishment of what one has the right to expect from him.
Understood this way, the message they convey is this: I did not
deserve to be treated this way by you. I expected better of you. And
because of what you did, things have changed for the worse between us.
Obviously, sadness and disappointment do not hold the wrongdoing
against the offender in the same way that anger does. They do not warn
the offender as anger does or seek to retaliate for the harm that was
suffered. This is why certain nonangry negative emotions can persist after
forgiveness has been achieved. But it is not only the different kinds of
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

596

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

moral anger that assert ones self-regard or self-respect in the face of


mistreatment. There are various ways of emotionally asserting this and
manifesting ones distress at being treated disrespectfully, and these
include nonangry as well as angry negative moral emotions.
There are different terms that might be used to describe the selfregarding attitudes that are expressed in negative emotional responses to
wrongdoing. These include self-respect, self-esteem, self-regard, and a
sense of self-worth, and they are not synonymous. Gabriele Taylor
claims, to mention one distinction, that the person who has self-esteem
takes a favorable view of himself but that for a person to have selfrespect does not mean that he has a favourable attitude towards himself,
or that he has any particular attitude towards himself. Rather, to
respect oneself is to have a sense of ones own value (Taylor 1985, 77
78). This seems about the same as having a sense of self-worth. Selfregard, by contrast, could refer either to valuing oneself (self-respect) or
having a good opinion of oneself (self-esteem). These differences in
terminology and meaning need not detain us here, however, for there
are various close connections between these attitudes, between selfrespect and self-esteem specically, that make it unnecessary to dwell
on their differences. There are connections that go in two directions:
possessing self-respect is a reason for self-esteem (see Sachs 1981), and,
conversely, holding ones self-esteem intact, retaining a good opinion of
oneself, can be a reason for self-respect. So while I usually talk about selfrespect, I am not averse to speaking instead of self-esteem or self-regard.
I want the point I have made about the relationship between selfrespect and negative emotions to be correctly understood. I am not
claiming that when a person who lacks self-respect and does not believe
he deserves any better treatment than he is receiving is mistreated, he
cannot be sad or grief-stricken as a result. These and other nonangry
emotions can certainly be the effects of wrongdoing and, as effects, may
be felt by persons decient in self-respect. Indeed, even completely servile
people can be sad when their cherished possessions are taken from them.
Rather, I am suggesting that nonangry negative emotions can (but dont
always) function as distressed expressions of moral disapproval of how one
has been treated and of the offender for being the author of that
treatment, and that it is as expressions of such disapproval that they
serve to dene and police the boundaries of ones self-respect.
The following may make this suggestion a bit more plausible. It is
widely accepted in the philosophical literature that there is a link between
certain emotional responses to wrongdoing and self-respect. Thus,
according to Jeffrie Murphy, [w]rongdoing is in part a communicative
act, an act that gives out a degrading or insulting message to the victim.
. . . Resentment of the wrongdoer is one way that a victim may evince,
emotionally, that he or she does not endorse this degrading message; in
this way resentment may be tied to the virtue of self-respect (2002, 44). It
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

597

is compatible with this that after the victim overcomes resentment, which
she must do to forgive on the orthodox sentiment-based view, she can
evince her nonendorsement of the degrading message in other ways, and
that this nonendorsement can also be linked to her self-respect. But she
will have to express this in a different emotional manner, without
predominantly angry feelings. Now consider this case from Norvin
Richards: It is possible for mistreatment to make one not angry or
contemptuous but just very sad, if it is mistreatment at the hands of a
loved one. Imagine, for example, that your grown son had badly let you
down. This might make you angry, of course, but it might also make you
feel deeply disappointed in him, instead. You are hurt that he should act
in this way, not angry, not moved to hatred (1988, 78).
Richards goes on to maintain, quite rightly I believe, that it should also
count as forgiveness to abandon these nonangry feelings if this is done for
the right reasons. Why should this be? For Murphy, resentment is
important because it is one way of evincing nonendorsement. This
leaves open the possibility that there are others, and my contention is that
sadness, disappointment, and hurt have much the same function in
Richardss example as resentment does in the passage from Murphy.
That is, they are ways of evincing, emotionally, that one does not endorse
how one has been treated and, in this sense, are forms of protest (or quasiprotest) against wrongdoing. This enables them to play a role analogous
to that of resentment in a sentiment-based account of forgiveness and
provides justication for Richardss assertion that we can sensibly talk
about forgiveness even in cases where anger is not an issue.
As Richardss example suggests, it may be nonangry negative emotions
that need to be overcome in order to forgive. It is a false dichotomy,
therefore, to posit (a) forgiveness and (b) vengeance, hatred, and bitterness
as the only alternatives: there is also nonangry nonforgiveness. Nonangry
negative emotions might also continue or surface after forgiveness has been
achieved. In addition, the points I have made about the links between
negative nonangry emotions, protest, and self-respect are quite general.
That is, they are not necessarily conned to the negative nonangry emotions
that occur prior to the achievement of forgiveness but may apply as well to
those that occur after. The expressive point and moral signicance of these
emotions after forgiveness can be the same as their point and signicance
before. It consists in being a form of emotional distress that expresses
nonendorsement of mistreatment and disapproval of the wrongdoer for it,
and that reveals, to oneself, the offender, and ones community, what one is
unwilling to accept as a matter of self-respect. Memory is also implicated.
The disapproving moral emotions constitute emotional memories of wrongdoing, and these are morally signicant because and for the same reason
that the emotions are.
In this section, I have tried to answer the question: What value is there
in remembering that one was wronged? Or rather, what value is there in
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

598

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

remembering it in a certain way, in having negative emotional memories


of it? To repeat, the answer I have proposed is that negative emotions can
reveal, to myself and others, how I draw the boundaries of my sense of
self-worth, and announce that my self-respect will not permit me to accept
without protest the treatment I have received. There is value in expressions of disapproval on particular occasions, and also in being disposed to
have negative emotional memories of being wronged, because the
disposition partially constitutes the self as a person for whom some sorts
of treatment are morally unacceptable. When culpable wrongdoing is
remembered with anger or disappointment or hurt, for example, and this
is communicated, one gives emotional testimony of ones disappointed
expectations of respectful treatment from others and holds them responsible for their offenses. The distress that accompanies these disappointed
expectations, or some form of it, may remain even after forgiveness has
been achieved. But now it may be asked: What reason could there be for
continuing to be disapproving once the offender has been forgiven; what
good is there in remembering the wrongdoing and the wrongdoer in
emotionally negative ways after he has been forgiven? Isnt it time for the
wronged party to forget, and best for her to do so?
I have three responses. First, the expression of disapproval is not
preventing the victim from getting on with her life. The victim has, in the
sense that advocates of the therapeutic benets of forgiveness have in
mind, put the past behind her. Second, the wrong and the wrongdoing are
part of the history of her relationship with the offender, and continuing to
be bothered by them after the offender has been forgiven is not necessarily
evidence of objectionable obstinacy on the victims part. Rather, it may
show that she has a proper appreciation of the evaluative signicance of
both the wrong and its effects on the history it is part of. Third, there is no
obvious moral reason why the feeling of having been mistreated is
something that the victim has to get out of her system or get over. Since
the passage of time does not undo the wrong that was done and the
insulting message it conveyed to the victim, there is no predetermined or
denite time when the emotional memory of that wrong ceases to have a
morally signicant function.12
Forgiveness does, however, bring about a change in the victims
emotional responses to wrongdoing. The anger and intense grief that
are common responses to human rights violations, for example, will have
been overcome if the perpetrators have been forgiven, although the
feelings may boil up from time to time. Nonangry emotions may remain
12

Postforgiveness emotional memories can also have instrumental value. Negative


emotional memories of wrongdoing after forgiveness has been achieved may help the victim
recongure the relationship he will have with the offender going forward. Forgiveness does
not imply that the victim should act as though the one who is forgiven had never wronged
him, and the memory of prior wrongdoing can be useful to the victim in various ways.
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

599

that are not let go or gotten rid of by forgiveness, but in time they may
abate as well. As they do, the victims might continue to remember that
they were unjustly harmed in the past, but the memory will cause them
less and less distress and pain, so will lose its vividness and probably much
of its motivating force. The relationship between memory and emotion
goes the other way too: to the extent that negative emotions are triggered
by the memory of wrongdoing, they too will fade as the memory of
wrongdoing recedes. Over time, the victims will likely recall the wrongdoing on progressively fewer and fewer occasions and with progressively
less impact on their thoughts, feelings, and actions, assuming measures
are not taken to shore up memory. Eventually, in this scenario, the
victims and others whose memories are similarly affected will be left with
only nonaffective declarative memories of the wrongdoing, and without
the power to evoke emotion through memory, the past wrongdoing will
not much matter to them. They will not give it its due weight, its full
impact and import. This is an important concern in the context of
restorative justice because restorative justice takes time, often many
generations, so the dwindling of memory is a real liability.
This brings us back to the problem of the decay of memory that I
described in section 1. But before commenting on how the memory of
wrongdoing might be prolonged, let me give some additional reasons why
we should want to do so.
4. Backward-Looking and Forward-Looking Functions of Memory
It is a commonplace in the philosophical literature on forgiveness that to
forgive is not to forget. One may eventually forget after having forgiven,
but one cannot forget as a way of forgiving. Memory of wrongdoing is
not just a conceptual necessity, however. It, or rather an emotional
memory of wrongdoing that defends or manifests the self-respect of the
victim, is also necessary if forgiveness is to be a virtue, as many consider
it, and not just a manifestation of weakness or servility. Memory of
wrongdoing that provides the right sort of emotional access to the wrong
indicates that the victim appreciates the wrong for what it was and is,
namely, an unjustied and unexcused injury or slight, and that she is not
willing to resign herself to it. And if she communicates her emotional
distress at the wrong, she communicates her moral disapproval or
nonendorsement of being so treated. Negative emotions that have this
function include but are not limited to the various forms of moral anger,
and include those experienced before as well as after forgiveness, and in
each case they serve to police the victims boundary of self-respect and
establish its contours. This goes a long way toward explaining the moral
signicance of the memory of wrongdoing in the context of forgiveness.
I have been talking about the emotional memories of individual
victims of wrongdoing, but have not been specic about who is to count
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

600

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

as a victim. I consider a victim to be either an individual who suffered a


direct violation or wrong or an individual who suffered indirectly as a
result of the former, by, for example, losing a loved one. If the wrong cost
the former his life, the latter is often called a survivor.13 Though I cannot
provide the details here, the above argument might be extended in two
ways. First, it might be extended to include not only those who are victims
in one of these senses but also descendants of the victims who have a
special relationship to those to whom the wrong was done, what Janna
Thompson (2001) calls representatives of family lines. Second, supposing that it makes sense to talk about the self-respect of a community of
victims and their descendants, a variation of the argument can explain
why collective memory of wrongdoing is morally valuable for the
community considered as a whole, in contrast to its individual members.
This will be relevant when I come to talk about the function of
commemorative ceremonies, since these are communal in nature.
Memory of wrongdoing not only has value to the extent that it triggers
and is partially constituted by emotions that embody the victims
aggrieved sense of their moral worth. Memory of wrongdoing serves
other purposes as well, two of which I will briey discuss here. In relation
to both, there is not only moral value in remembering but arguably an
obligation to remember as well. The obligations have different temporal
referents and groundings, however: in one, a backward-looking deontological obligation; in the other, a forward-looking consequentialist
obligation. Moreover, the obligations are not closely tied to forgiveness.
That is to say, it is not the case that once forgiveness has been achieved,
the obligations lose their moral force. On the contrary, there might be
compelling moral reasons to continue to remember the wrongdoing for
which the wrongdoers have already been forgiven. And as in the
argument of the previous section, the ability of past wrongdoing to
generate an emotional reaction, and its retention in emotional memory,
play an important, perhaps even critical, role in the fulllment of these
obligations. This is partly because, as I will explain, certain emotions
constitute a tting response to wrongdoing, and partly because emotions
assist in keeping the memory of wrongdoing alive.
I have defended the backward-looking obligation at length elsewhere
(Blustein 2008), so here I will only review some of the main points. There
are backward-looking personal obligations of remembrance and backward-looking obligations of remembrance that individuals have as
members of a collective, both individually and collectively. In the latter
case, roughly speaking, the members of a political community have a
backward-looking obligation to remember past wrongs and their victims,
13
See the discussion in Hamber 2009, 4041, about the psychological signicance of
choosing to call those who suffer either victims or survivors: The term survivor can be
empowering, but it can also be used to avoid talking about suffering.

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

601

especially if these wrongs have played a dening role in the history of that
community and their legacy continues to shape, even if only implicitly, its
self-understanding. This is an obligation that is owed to the victims of
those wrongs, many of whom may not have survived, not just toward
them but to others (living survivors or others), and it may provisionally be
characterized as an obligation to honor them because of what they
suffered. Obligations to remember victims who were killed or died as a
result of their injuries can be described in Michael Ignatieffs terms as
obligations of keeping faith with the dead (Ignatieff 1998). I acknowledge that there has been considerable resistance in the philosophical
literature to the notion of posthumous duties, but argue that the apparent
oddity can be removed if we understand the obligation as owed not to the
person as dead but to the person, now dead, as he was when alive. Consider
a more homely case. If we love someone, then there are various things we
ought to do to show our special concern and affection, and we are
vulnerable to criticism if we fail to have or show proper affection. In this
sense, according special care and affection can be an obligation or duty of
love. Since the duty is ours to fulll, the death of the loved one does not end
the duty, although it certainly alters how the duty is fullled. The moral
reasons for our duty to love survive, though the bearer of the right does not.
Similarly for the obligation to remember the nonsurviving victims of
wrongdoing: we owe it to them to remember them because of what they
suffered, even if they are now beyond the reach of our service.14
The second argument for the obligation to remember wrongdoing and its
victims is more familiar and less controversial, at least conceptually. It is
encapsulated in the slogans Never again and its Latin American
equivalent Nunca mas, and is part of the rationale for the documentation
of rights violations by truth commissions, for other public forums for
exposing wrongdoers, and for programs to educate the young about the
evils of the past. More broadly speaking, remembering the injustices of the
past, it is argued, is a necessary means to the accomplishment of a number
of important goals, including securing reparations for the victims, providing
therapeutic services for those affected by the wrongs, and preventing the
recurrence of violence and rights abuses. For the latter purpose, the memory
of wrongdoing might be enlisted in criminal prosecutions and maintained
through extrajudicial forms of public scrutiny. This would put the offenders
on notice that they cannot evade responsibility by burying the past and
would perhaps deter others from committing similar crimes in the future. In
addition, lasting institutional and social reforms are needed to prevent a
14
Though there are countless victims of wrongdoing who did not survive to bear witness
to the wrongs they suffered, not all of them, as a practical matter, can be honored by being
remembered. Who should be remembered, why, and by whom, are difcult questions that I
discuss in Blustein 2008, 21121. We need selection principles for memorial obligations that
pair a subset of the living with a subset of victims of wrongdoing, and these principles will no
doubt be complex.

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

602

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

repetition of the violence and grave human rights violations of the past, and
memory is needed here as well. For without the memories of wrongdoing
providing a reminder of what is to be avoided, such efforts will be imperiled
and may stall. Prevention is not only a social imperative. It is also a moral
obligation, owed to future generations whose security and well-being are
entrusted to those whose conduct determines the kind of society they will
inherit. And since memory is vital for prevention, remembrance is for this
reason an obligation as well.
The claim that there are moral obligations of remembrance, whether of
a deontological or an instrumental nature, obviously leaves many matters
unsettled. How obligations of remembrance are best fullled, how they
can and should be discharged so that they do least harm to other
important social goods, values, and obligations, are difcult questions
whose answers depend on complex details of local history and culture and
the institutional makeup and resources of the given society. Obligatory
though remembrance may be for instrumental reasons, instrumental
considerations also set limits to the obligation. As Jean Bethke Elshtain
notes, People are very fond of citing the philosopher George Santayanas claim that those who dont know their history are doomed to repeat
it. But perhaps the reverse is more likely, namely, that it is those who
know their history too well who are doomed to repetition. Perhaps a
certain amount of knowing forgetting is necessary in order to elude the
rut of repetition (2003, 48).
Why is it important or perhaps even necessary, for the purpose of
fullling these two obligations, that past wrongdoing should elicit some
sort of negative emotional response from its survivors and others? The
question needs to be asked not only about the emotional responses of
individuals considered individually. Since the memorial activities in
fulllment of the obligations include those that are public and communal
in nature, we also have to think about what role the emotional responses
of groups of people play.15
Consider the deontological obligation owed to the victims of wrongdoing
in virtue of having been wronged, and let me answer with some remarks
about the relationship between values and emotions. I concede that victims
can be remembered without affect in triadic propositions of the form, x
remembers that y was done to z (where y is lled in by various details
about the nature of the wrongdoing, its circumstances, and the perpetrators). But even supposing that such remembering is sustainable, which is
doubtful, arguably there is a morally relevant difference between being
15
This raises the issue of whether groups can have emotions. The least controversial view
is that a group experiences an emotion if some signicant portion of its membership feels it.
Another view is that group emotion refers to certain institutional features that tend to
encourage desired emotional experiences in its members (Smith 2008, 242). There are other
views as well. Fortunately, for purposes of this article, I can leave the question of the best
account open.

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

603

disposed to remember that certain people were the victims of wrongdoing,


in an emotionally neutral way, and being disposed to remember it in or with
a negative emotion like anger or deep sadness or grief or revulsion. The
difference can be explained by the close relationship between emotions and
values, which consists in the fact that values are bound up in various ways
with dispositions to have positive emotions, when what one values does
well, and negative ones, when what one values does poorly. Hence, angry
and nonangry negative emotional responses to wrongdoing, and the
memories they constitute, reveal the moral values of the rememberer as
mere propositional memory does not. Those who are disposed to emotionally remember wrongdoing this way have a grip on its evaluative signicance that those who are not so disposed lack, partly because the emotions
keep the memory of it alive and vivid and partly because the wrongdoing
registers in the former as a disposition to respond in emotionally appropriate ways to it. This is what wrongdoing should do and what it would do
to those who perceive it if they truly appreciated and disvalued its
wrongness.16 It would have a tendency to move them in emotionally
negative ways, simply by virtue of being morally objectionable treatment
of one human being by another, and in particularly affecting ways if they
had some sort of personal attachment to the ones who were wronged.
I dont think this is the entire story of what is involved in, to use that
much overworked expression, truly appreciating the seriousness of being
wronged, although having a tendency to move the perceiver of wrong in
emotionally negative ways is a crucial part of it. We can ll out the story if
we take truly appreciating wrongdoing to consist in having strong convictions of a certain kind about it, and if we explain these in turn in terms of
what Justin DArms and Daniel Jacobson call wide concerns. These
play a broad psychological role in the mental economy of their possessor.
When the object of a concern prompts a variety of evaluative attitudes, not
just a single emotion or desire; when the desire for it (or aversion to it) arises
in many different situations; when it is implicated in the ability to get or
avoid many other things people care about; when its pursuit or avoidance
grounds disparate actions and plans; when, in short, it is rmly enmeshed in
our web of psychological responses, there is evidence of the width of a
concern (DArms and Jacobson 2006, 116). A strong conviction of the
requisite sort is one that is enmeshed in our web of psychological
responses, a weak conviction is one that is not; and those who are disposed
to respond to some wrong as wrongs should be responded to are
distinguished from those who are not by whether they have strong
convictions about it. On the account I propose, a persons strong convictions are linked to her values, and her values are linked to her dispositions to
have emotional responses. But this is only part of a larger story that
16
For more on the connection between emotions and values or valuings, see Blustein
2010; Prinz 2008; Stocker 1996; and Anderson 1993.

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

604

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

describes the manifold ways in which the response to wrongdoing is


entangled in the life of one who takes it seriously.
What importance we give to emotional memory of wrongdoing in the
deontological argument depends on how we think the victims of wrongdoing should be remembered, on what constitutes a tting remembrance of them. Is an emotionally neutral declarative memory of their
suffering, a nonaffective memory that such-and-such happened to so-andso, sufcient? Memory of this sort is not without instrumental signicance: memorialization efforts that draw attention to the plight of the
victims of wrongdoing can be valuable for all sorts of reasons even if their
plight does not arouse negative emotions in the participants. However,
tting remembrance of the victims is not only remembrance that gives
them some form of recognition. There is also a sense of what is tting
according to which tting memories embody strong convictions (in the
above sense) about the wrongness of what was done. This is partly a
matter of the memories tending to be infused with negative emotions that
register the rememberers appreciation of the evaluative signicance of
the wrongdoing. In other words, the rememberer is disposed to be
distressed by what was done to the victims because it was wrong and
because they were wronged. In addition, memories that embody strong
convictions about wrongdoing are not cordoned off from other aims,
concerns, and desires of the rememberer but are embedded in a network
of psychological responses and have an inuence that extends beyond the
individual occasions of remembering.
Consider next the forward-looking argument for the obligation to
remember wrongdoing, where the value of emotion, whatever it is, must
have a different explanation. In this case, emotional responses to the
wrongdoing must be evaluated from an instrumental standpoint.17 The
appropriate question here is this: Is it more likely that the goals of
reparation, therapy, peace, security, and so on, will be realized if the
predominant memories of wrongdoing in society tend to provoke
negative emotional reactions than if they do not, assuming no other
factors inuencing memory retention are at work? Let me answer this in
two steps: If the realization of (some of) these goals depends on retaining
the memory of past wrongdoing, as I believe it does, and if the memory of
past wrongdoing is more likely to persist if it triggers and is constituted by
negative emotions than not, other things being equal, then we have
grounds for saying that negative emotional responses to the wrongdoing
promote valuable goals and can be endorsed by the consequentialist
argument for an obligation to remember.
I want to say a word about the second conditional because of my
interest in the problem of the decay of memory. It is widely accepted by
17
The performative view of forgiveness, discussed in section 2, also evaluates emotional
responses to wrongdoing instrumentally.

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

605

psychologists that the memory of emotional events decays more slowly


than the memory of nonemotional ones, and various explanations have
been proposed. Psychologists Friderike Heuer and Daniel Reisberg, for
example, suggest that this is partly because emotional events are more
distinctive than neutral events, and partly because of the extra attention and rehearsal that one devotes to emotional events. . . . Emotional
events are, by their nature, often worth thinking about. Emotional events
often have consequences for ones life and the lives of others, and these
are also worth contemplation. For these reasons, emotionality may lead
subjects to rehearse the material more than they otherwise might, once
again leading to slower forgetting (1992, 16872). These factors help to
explain not only how emotion at the time memories are laid down
strengthens memories and makes them more easily accessible, but also
how emotionality at the time of recall does so. Whatever the explanation
for how emotions slow forgettingand the mechanisms, admittedly, are
not entirely well understoodthere is ample psychological evidence that
they do so. Moreover, it is a reasonable conjecture that memorial
practices that involve emotional responses to wrongdoing can prolong
the memory of it and make it more accessible to consciousness than it
would have been in the absence of an affective component.
I have now discussed three ways in which negative emotional responses
to wrongdoing have moral signicance, which in turn explain the
signicance of the emotional memories that they constitute: (1) the
emotions give expression to the fact that victims care about themselves
and take their rights seriously, that is, that they retain their self-respect
and do not acquiesce in mistreatment; (2) the emotions constitute tting
ways of attending to the suffering of the victims of wrongdoing, tting
because those who have a grip on the evaluative signicance of the
wrongs are disposed to respond to them with some measure of distress
and pain, and tting ways of remembering them; and (3) the emotions
slow the decay of memory and facilitate the realization of various
worthwhile ends, of a collective and individual nature, that depend
upon the persistence of memory. I make these points without regard to
the distinction between angry negative emotional responses and nonangry
ones. However, as we will see, angry emotions raise a problem for the
possibility of achieving the aims of restorative justice.
Commemorative ceremonies, I argue next, can consist of patterns of
behavior, thought, and feeling that are morally signicant for these
reasons. In saying this I presume a particular conception of commemorative ceremonies, which I will now try to spell out.
5. Commemoration, Repeated Retrieval, and Emotion
If there is such a thing as social memory, asserts Paul Connerton in
How Societies Remember, we are likely to nd it in commemorative
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

606

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

ceremonies (1989, 71). Commemorative ceremonies are an important


means of constructing the collective memory of a community, and as such
contribute to the creation of a sense among the members of the
community that they form a collective body.18 Commemorative ceremonies also have more particular uses that involve or depend on memory
preservation, and these are my concern here. These include: conveying
and sustaining an image of the past; honoring those who did not survive
injustice; validating the claims of victims and their families through social
recognition; and celebrating societys recovery from a violent past. Commemorative ceremonies, when they are embraced by the community and
especially when those responsible for the wrongdoing participate, can help
restore the dignity of victims and symbolically assure them of full membership in the community. They can also very visibly express societys
continuing recognition of the wrongness of what was done and repudiation
of the past, and afrm its commitment to a new regime of nonviolence and
respect for rights. In these and other ways, commemorative ceremonies can
not only further the aims of restorative justice but also, given their repetitive
character, serve to sustain its achievements. Public apology and forgiveness
can also further these aims, but the restorative value of commemoration can
be quite signicant whether or not perpetrators have apologized and been
forgiven for their offenses. There may be a role for commemorative
ceremonies, therefore, even after perpetrators have been forgiven for their
wrongdoing. Moreover, the existence of commemorative ceremonies might
be able to help prevent the resurgence of retributive feelings that would
undermine the prospects for reconciliation and (re)establishment of mutually respectful relations and destabilize the new order. In this way, the
ceremonies couldbut as I will note later, do not necessarilywork to
solidify the achievements of forgiveness.
I take as my point of departure Connertons locating of commemorative ceremonies within the broader category of ritual action.19 By ritual
Connerton means, quoting Steven Lukes, rule-governed activity of a
symbolic character which draws the attention of its participants to objects
of thought and feeling which they hold to be of special signicance (44).
Connerton emphasizes two features that commemorative ceremonies
have in common with other rituals, formalism and performativity
(61). Rituals are formalized in the sense that they tend to be stylized,
18
On the relation between collective memory and a sense of the collective, see Lambert et
al. 2009.
19
See also Edward Casey: Commemorating solemnizes by communalizing in a ceremony.
Such communalizing is crucial, since taking the past seriously (the other root of solemnication) is unable by itself to achieve solemnization in any strict sense (2000, 225). The notion
of solemnizing may be useful in explaining how commemorative ceremonies work on the
emotions of their participants. Solemnizing in this context involves taking the past seriously,
and this is a matter, says Casey, of letting the past matterof giving it its due weight, its full
impact and import (224).

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

607

stereotyped and repetitive (44) and, therefore, susceptible of little variation


from one occasion to another. And they are performative because rituals do
not merely comment on some action external to themselves but bring the
action into existence through the performance. In addition to these features,
Connerton claims that commemorative ceremonies have a further feature
that distinguishes them from other kinds of ritual action, what he calls reenactment (61), that is, the explicit reanimation of prototypes (62). I do
not discuss this in what follows, however, since it is not germane to the
argument I am trying to advance.
Recent work in experimental psychology has begun to clarify the
mechanisms that contribute to the creation and persistence of collective
memories, and some of this empirical work has direct relevance to the
connection between collective memory and commemorative ceremonies, via
the notion of repetitive recall. Psychologists Henry Roediger, Franklin
Zaromb, and Andrew Butler note that retrieving information from
memory is not a neutral event; rather, it leads to a modication of the
memory trace. As a result, the act of retrieving information from memory
produces a memory trace that is more resistant to forgetting (2009, 146).
They cite considerable laboratory research on repeated retrieval that
shows it not only helps to shape our memories but also strengthens them
and promotes their maintenance over long periods of time. The lessons
learned from these laboratory experiments strongly suggest to them the
following about collective memories: Although one might argue that . . .
observed group differences in historical memory were primarily determined
by the memorial encoding conditionsthat is, the initial impact of the event
and the inuence of group identication on that experience . . . we argue
that of equal if not greater importance may be the role that retrieval plays
in the formation and retention of memories across groups over time. . . .
Probably the repeated retrieval of events is critical to their long-term
retention (153). The relevance of this to commemoration follows from
the nature of this type of social activity. Commemorative ceremonies, as a
kind of ritual, are characterized by repetitive behavior at regular intervals,
and on each occasion of commemoration there is a retrieval of what is being
commemorated, assuming that the commemoration is in fact that
seriously focused on something that happened in the past, and not merely
an empty formality or excuse for celebration. This repetition has important
implications for the formation and retention of memories of historical
events, including historical injustices, and partially explains the mnemonic
impact of commemorative ceremonies.20
20
Roediger, Zaromb, and Butler (2009, 148, 150) also draw a connection between
collective commemorative rituals and repeated retrieval: national commemorative holidays
such as Presidents Day, the Fourth of July, Veterans Day, or Martin Luther King Jr.s
Birthday, they say, serve as important tools for promoting the long-term retention of
historical knowledge and the shaping of a collective memory because of the repeated
retrieval of information about historical gures and events that they involve.

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

608

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

This is not yet to address the role of the emotions in commemorative


practices, however, which I need to do to justify my contention that
commemorative ceremonies have moral signicance that derives from
their emotional character. For this, I turn to Susanne Langers extremely
suggestive account of ritual, whose key points for my purposes are these.
Ritual, says Langer, expresses feelings in the logical rather than the
physiological sense (1951, 153). She goes on to say, in apparent
clarication of this rather odd remark, that rituals distinctive characteristic is not the evoking of feelings in an immediate psychological sense,
not the producing of a catharsis in the Aristotelian sense, which it may or
may not do, but the articulation of feelings. Moreover, in ritual, where
feelings are articulatedby which I take her to mean, in part, that they
are responsive to norms of appropriatenessand not spontaneously
generated, they are transformed into ingredients of attitudes: the
ultimate product of such articulation is not a simple emotion, but a
complex, permanent attitude. This attitude is an emotional pattern
which governs all individual lives. Langer sums up by saying that ritual
consists in a kind of psychic distancing: it is not or does not primarily
involve a free expression of emotions, but a disciplined rehearsal of
right attitudes (153). These remarks, which obviously give only the
barest outline of her view, are a good jumping-off place for clarifying the
role of emotion in ritual, and I want to elaborate them with that aim in
mind. Since this is not intended to be textual exegesis, I do not claim that
the way I use Langer represents the only reasonable interpretation of her
views about the relation between ritual and emotion or fully captures all
the main points of her account of ritual.21
Langers account emphasizes the distinction between a simple emotion and an attitude that is an emotional pattern, in other words, an
affective attitude. These attitudes can be distinguished from the broader
class of emotions on the grounds that, as she notes, the former are a
specic group of emotional responses that have a complexity that simple
or singular emotions lack. Lucy Allais draws a similar contrast and
explains it as follows: Emotions like disgust, anger, or joy primarily
involve a singular way of feeling towards or seeing their objects, whereas
having an affective attitude towards someone is more complex, in that it
need not involve any one specic feeling, but rather involves being
disposed to have a range of feelings in a range of circumstances (2008,
52). Although there may be disagreements about whether to classify
21
Langer does say at one point: As soon as an expressive act is performed without inner
momentary compulsion it is no longer self-expressive, it is expressive in the logical sense. . . .
[Instead] of completing the natural history of a feeling, it denotes the feeling (1951, 152).
Denoting a feeling is different from expressing it, but what Langer might be referring to here
is whatever feeling was originally caused by the events that the ritual commemorates. Hence,
she might not be denying that subsequent feelings may be expressed in and by the ritual
itself.

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

609

something as a simple emotion or an emotional attitude, the distinction between having one specic feeling and being disposed to have a range
of feelings is, in principle at least, clear. In addition to this distinction
between the simple and the complex, Langer draws another: between
the spontaneous or free expression of emotions and the disciplined
rehearsal of emotional attitudes. Putting these two distinctions together,
we can say that rituals involve being disposed to have a range of feelings
that are expressed in a self-controlled and practiced manner. The range of
circumstances in which these feelings are expressed is necessarily restricted
because of the invariant character of ritualistic behavior.
If we accept all this, these remarks establish that commemorative
ceremonies have an emotional dimension, and they help to clarify what it
consists in. Simply put, ceremonies commemorating wrongdoing can
generate emotional responses to it because commemorative ceremonies
are a type of ritual, and rituals essentially involve disciplined affective
attitudes. With a more complete picture of the nature of commemorative
ceremonies in hand, we can now ask what value, moral not psychological,
the disciplined emotionality characteristic of these ceremonies might have.
We know from the discussion in sections 3 and 4 that negative
emotional responses to wrongdoing can have both intrinsic and instrumental value through their links to self-respect, the honoring of victims,
and the realization of desirable transitional goals. Commemorative
ceremonies, drawing upon and eliciting negative emotional responses to
wrongdoing, stand to inherit these values. They have these values when
(1) the participants in them feel moral distress at the wrongs that have
been suffered by individuals (including themselves) and the communities
to which they belong, distress that effectively expresses a protest against
the wrongdoing and that the participants experience as a function of their
intact self-respect (the offenders, of course, might also experience moral
distress, in the form of painful feelings of negative self-assessment); (2) the
ceremonies involve emotions that are a tting or appropriate response by
participants to the wrongful harms suffered by the victims of wrongdoing
who cannot testify on their own behalf, a response that, especially when
embedded in a network of other psychological responses, honors the
victims; and (3) the ceremonies slow the decay of memory so that
worthwhile goals, reparative as well as reconstructive, that depend
upon its persistence can be achieved and sustained.
This conveys something of the moral signicance that commemorative
ceremonies can have because of their emotional character, but obviously
much more needs to be said to ll out this sketch. One point to underscore
is that while commemorative ceremonies can serve as vehicles of protest
against wrongdoing, those who participate in them should not be the
victims and the victim communities alone. The larger community,
including the perpetrators and those who facilitated or beneted from
the wrongdoing, should also participate to acknowledge the legitimacy of
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

610

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

their grievances and to support them in their protest. Otherwise, the lack
of community involvement might generate resentment among the victims
and set back the prospects for a lasting reconciliation between victims and
perpetrators. Further, it would oversimplify to suggest that one sort of
commemorative ceremony will have all these features and do all these
things. Some commemorative ceremonies are suited to honor the dead;
others might be enlisted in the task of rebuilding society, establishing
relations of respect and trust, and preventing the recurrence of prior
abuses; still others might be vehicles for protest in which the participants
take a stand against unjustied attacks on or violations of their rights.
Moreover, there might be tensions between these different operations of
commemorative ceremonies.22 For example, commemorations chiey
aimed at social reconstruction and political reconciliation can divert
attention from the needs of survivors for whom commemoration serves as
a way of honoring their dead; or commemorations driven by the political
demands of the transitional context might not give victims an opportunity
to properly protest against the wrongs they have suffered. Nevertheless,
what mainly interests me here is commemoration as a type of restorative
justice practice and, considered as such, it is enough to point out its
multiple expressive meanings and uses.
I can now give a more complete response to the concerns I raised at the
outset about memorys tendency to fade with time. Commemorative
ceremonies can strengthen and maintain memories over long periods of
time because they involve repeated retrieval of memories of people and
events, including wrongdoings. But this is only part of the explanation.
Commemorative ceremonies can also do this because they do not merely
involve the repetition of invariant behaviors in a kind of mechanical
fashion, or ones bare acknowledgment of past events without allowing
oneself to become emotionally involved in the review of them. Rather, in
my Langer-inspired account of them, they consist in the emotional
rehearsal of the past and the generation and utilization of negative
emotions that keep the memories alive. Edward Casey describes this
feature of commemorative ceremonies this way: they serve[s] to express
and specify emotion while channeling any tendency to excess. . . . [Their
formality] solemnizes the expression of emotion on the occasion (2000,
225). The emotional quality of commemorative memories, to which
Langer, Casey, and others draw attention, works together with their
repetitive character to combat the decay of memory.
22
Addressing the role of community in restorative justice, Margaret Walker notes that
the harmed community and the community that can effectively respond to support repair
need not be the same collectivity (2006, 222). We can add that the function of
commemorative ceremonies for the harmed community might not be the same as their
function for the community that can effectively take steps to redress wrongdoing, and that
giving priority to one sort of commemoration can divert needed attention from the other.
See also Hamber 2009, 7879.

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

611

I grant that the repetitive character of ritual may be enough on its own to
promote memory retention, but this does not diminish the importance of
the emotional component. For one thing, those who remember wrongdoing
without affect will remember that wrongs were committed, and perhaps
even that they bear some responsibility for them. But without negative
emotional responses that are triggered by and partially constitute the
memories, and without the perceptiveness and desires that the emotions
involve, the rememberers are likely to lack a sustained motivation to do
something to make up for the wrongs. Furthermore, I dont need to argue
that the emotional character of commemorative ceremonies is necessary for
enhanced memory retention. It is enough for my purposes that the
emotional character of commemoration increases the likelihood of memory
retention and the length of time that memories are maintained.
Langer speaks of disciplined rehearsal, Edward Casey of channeling,
but efforts to discipline and channel emotions are not always successful.
Emotions may be triggered that are not easy to contain, and this can have
destructive social consequences. The emotions that commemorations tap
may be of the wrong sort, that is to say, wrong from the standpoint of
restorative justice, because they are obstacles to the establishment of
relations of respect and trust between those who have suffered from harm
and those who are responsible for or have beneted from it. Anger, for
example, may be hard to contain once aroused and be the wrong sort of
emotion to tap into because of this. Let me conclude this section with a
few words about these possibilities.
Jon Elster, in Closing the Books: Transitional Justice in Historical
Perspective, discusses various mechanisms by which the decay of
memory and emotion may be slowed down or even arrested altogether
(2004, 223). These include communication among the victims of wrongdoing, codes of honor that keep memory alive until the desire for revenge
has been satised, visible physical reminders of the wrongdoing, and
perpetuation of the state of affairs caused by the wrongdoing (223). I am
suggesting that commemorative ceremonies can be a mechanism of the
same sort, only for the purpose of promoting restorative justice and
maintaining its achievements, not keeping the desire for revenge alive. Yet
commemorative ceremonies can and often do function like codes of
honorconsider, for example, the annual march of the Orangemen in
Northern Ireland (Orangemen Web site) and the Serbian national holiday
of St. Vitus Day, which commemorates the Battle of Kosovo in 1389
(Kosovo Web site)so their reparative potential should not be exaggerated. The participants in commemorative ceremonies can be disposed to
have negative as well as positive emotions, and among the former, angry
feelings, such as resentment, hatred, and malice, and nonangry ones, like
disappointment, hurt, sorrow, and grief. Angry as well as nonangry
negative emotions can keep the memories of wrongdoing alive, can keep
them, as Elster puts it, from fading from Technicolor to black and
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

612

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

white (219). But commemorative ceremonies are only useful in promoting the core values and aims of restorative justice if the feelings to which
its participants are disposed are largely of the nonangry sort. What
matters is not only that wrongdoing is remembered but also how, and
commemorations do not build relations of trust sufcient for sustainable
cooperation if the participants in them are chiey prone to angry or
vengeful feelings. In the latter case, a society in transition seeking to
emerge from a period of political repression or violent conict by
adopting a restorative justice approach might decide to ban such commemorations altogether. Or if not ban them, tightly regulate them in various
ways. In contrast, it may decide to permit, perhaps even encourage,
commemorative ceremonies that foster recognition of the centrality of the
victims suffering, reconciliation between victims and offenders, and reintegration of the offenders into their communities. Commemorative ceremonies that can do these things do not stir up vengeful negative emotions.
I have no particular wisdom to offer as to how commemorative
ceremonies can be effectively designed to (re)establish rather than undermine trusting relationships, or what steps political communities might
take to prevent regression to a state of affairs characterized by mistrust,
hostility, and resentment. These are matters of political judgment that
depend upon an understanding of what is feasible given the historical
situation and cultural context. Whats more, commemorative ceremonies,
I freely admit, can be used for good or ill. Political uses of commemorative ceremonies to sustain myths and to shape and control public
opinion in the pursuit of dubious and illegitimate state objectives are well
documented.23 I only suggest what commemorative ceremonies may be
able to do, on the assumptions that they are well designed, are not
dominated by emotions of anger and revenge, receive sufcient validation
and support from the community, and are not appropriated and exploited
for jingoistic political ends. Commemorative ceremonies that satisfy these
conditions, that elicit nonangry negative feelings and channel any
tendency to emotional excess, are not only consistent with but can further
the aims of restorative justice.
Commemorations are a second type of restorative justice practice in
which those who have been the victims of wrongdoing may continue to
harbor nonangry negative feelings in response it. The other is the one I
began with, apology and forgiveness, where, as we have seen, nonangry
negative emotions may remain even though retributive emotions have
been overcome. In both cases, moreover, the persistence of such negative
feelings is not merely a natural if regrettable fact of human psychology
but a morally valuable aspect of the response to wrongdoing.

23

Many have noted this about the political uses of memory. See, for example, Plumb

2004.
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

613

6. Concluding Remarks: Forgiveness, Commemoration, and Reconciliation


Restorative justice is thought to aim for, and is sometimes even equated
with, reconciliation (see Crocker 2006), but if we are going to connect them
in this way, not just any notion of reconciliation will do. I agree with Janna
Thompson, who writes: A better understanding of reconciliation is that
reconciliation is achieved when the harm done by injustice to relations of
respect and trust that ought to exist between individuals or nations has been
repaired or compensated for by the perpetrator in such a way that this harm
is no longer regarded as standing in the way of establishing or re-establishing
these relations (2002, 50). Various practices and kinds of interpersonal
engagement can, depending on social and political circumstances, be helpful
in achieving reconciliation in this sense. I have not argued that forgiveness is
the road to reconciliation or even necessarily a road to it. For one thing, a
policy encouraging forgiveness of wrongdoers, whether or not there has
been appropriate apology and amends making from them, places responsibility for the achievement of reconciliation on the victims alone, and
thereby risks adding insult to injury: it can induce victims to think that there
must be something wrong with them if there is no reconciliation. For
another, even a policy encouraging forgiveness only if wrongdoers satisfy
certain conditions, namely, apologize, admit responsibility, resolve to reform, and promise to provide redress, is not enough to achieve reconciliation
in Thompsons sense. Conditional forgiveness may be a step in the direction
of reconciliation, but only if the promises of redress are carried out. Whats
more, the conditions that facilitated and supported injustice and oppression
must be addressed by the wrongdoers and the transitional society. Otherwise, there can be no meaningful, stable, and lasting reconciliation.
Like public apology and forgiveness, commemorative ceremonies can
be useful in promoting and sustaining reconciliation in societies seeking
to transform themselves after a period of widespread violence and human
rights abuses. But commemorative ceremonies must work in tandem with
other sorts of restorative justice practices to achieve reconciliation, one of
which could be public apology followed (or not, as the case may be) by
forgiveness. The question I have explored is whether and how we can
conceive of forgiveness and commemorations such that they are not in
conict with each other but can work together to help bring about and
stabilize the achievement of reconciliation and restorative justice.
There have been a number of intersecting strands of argument in this
article, so it may help to clarify what I have tried to accomplish if I
indicate how these strands t together. The central claims have been
about the following:
(a) forgiveness; specically, what sort of memory is necessary for
and compatible with it, and what moral signicance memories
of this type have;
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

614

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

(b) commemorative ceremonies; specically, the morally valuable


functions their constitutive memories can perform by virtue of
the emotional character of commemoration;
(c) the relationship between forgiveness and commemoration; specically, the possibility of their sharing in common a range of
negative emotional responses to wrongdoing with overlapping
moral functions;
(d) the relationship of forgiveness and commemoration to restorative
justice, in the light of conceptions of forgiveness and commemoration that emphasize the role of certain negative emotions in both.
Moral emotions, specically the negative nonretributive or nonangry ones,
make a signicant moral contribution to both the practice of apology and
forgiveness (according to a sentiment-based account of forgiveness) and
commemorations of a certain kind. This, I believe, has not been sufciently
appreciated. These emotions both constitute and preserve the memory of
wrongdoing, and, I have argued, they can do so in ways that do not present
obstacles to restorative justice. This may seem counterintuitive. For once
the offenders have made whatever amends can reasonably be expected of
them and forgiveness has been granted, is it not best for the victims and the
rest of society to put the past behind them, to move on and get on with the
business of transforming society and building democratic institutions?
Doesnt the memory of wrongdoing merely risk rekindling old grievances
and complicate the process of social reconstruction?
Though I have acknowledged these dangers in my discussion of
commemorative ceremonies, the advice to forget is deeply problematic,
for remembrance has its moral uses, and these are not only compatible
with but arguably integral to the achievement of restorative justice.
Forgetting wrongdoing is at best a highly qualied and temporary
good. It may in the short run ease social divisions and reduce the intensity
of animosity felt toward the perpetrators. But over time, the strategy is
bound to be counterproductive. Moreover, a social policy explicitly or
tacitly encouraging forgetting fails to treat the silenced victims of wrongdoing with the respect and honor that they deserve. The victims too can
be blameworthy if they assent to or acquiesce in such a policy, for it may
show a failure to stand up for themselves and to protest, through their
memories, the wrongs they suffered.
Department of Philosophy
City College, City University of New York
North Academic Center, Room 5/145A
160 Convent Avenue
New York, NY 10031
USA
jblustein@ccny.cuny.edu
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

615

Acknowledgments
I am grateful to Charles Griswold, Colleen Murphy, Ronald Salzberger,
and Margaret Walker for remarks on earlier drafts. A shortened version
of this article was read as part of a panel entitled Transitional Justice,
Reconciliation, Identity, and Memory at the Eastern Division Meeting
of the American Philosophical Association, December 28, 2009. I thank
members of the audience for their comments.

References
Allais, Lucy. 2008. Wiping the Slate Clean: The Heart of Forgiveness.
Philosophy and Public Affairs 36, no. 1 (Winter): 3368.
Anderson, Elizabeth. 1993. Value in Ethics and Economics. Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Benbaji, Hagit, and David Heyd. 2001. The Charitable Perspective:
Forgiveness and Toleration as Supererogatory. Canadian Journal of
Philosophy 31, no. 4 (December): 56786.
Bennett, Christopher. 2008. The Apology Ritual. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Blustein, Jeffrey. 2008. The Moral Demands of Memory. New York:
Cambridge University Press.
. 2010. Forgiveness, Emotion, and Memory. Unpublished manuscript.
Bower, Gordon H. 1992. How Might Emotions Affect Learning? In
The Handbook of Emotion and Memory: Research and Theory, edited
by Sven-Ake Christianson, 331. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Brooks, B. M., E. A. Attree, F. D. Rose, B. R. Clifford, and A. G. Leadbetter.
1999. The Specicity of Memory Enhancement During Interaction with a
Virtual Environment. Memory 7, no. 1 (January): 6578.
Brudholm, Thomas. 2008. Resentments Virtue: Jean Amery and the
Refusal to Forgive. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Casey, Edward S. 2000. Remembering: A Phenomenological Study. 2nd
edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Connerton, Paul. 1989. How Societies Remember. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Crocker, David A. 2006. Punishment, Reconciliation, and Democratic
Deliberation. In Taking Wrongs Seriously, edited by Elazar Barkan
and Alexander Karn, 5082. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
DArms, Justin, and Daniel Jacobson. 2006. Anthropocentric Constraints
on Human Value. In Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol. 1, edited by
Russ Shafer-Landau, 99126. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Digeser, P. E. 2001. Political Forgiveness. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

616

JEFFREY BLUSTEIN

Dzur, Albert, and Alan Wertheimer. 2002. Forgiveness and Public


Deliberation: Restorative Justice. Criminal Justice Ethics 21, no. 1
(Winter/Spring): 320.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke. 2003. Politics and Forgiveness. In Burying the
Past: Making Peace and Doing Justice After Civil Conict, edited by
Nigel Biggar, 4564. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
Elster, Jon. 2004. Closing the Books: Transitional Justice in Historical
Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Engelkamp, J., and K. H. Seiler. 2003. Gains and Losses in Action Memory.
Q Journal of Experimental Psychology 56, no. 5 (July): 82948.
Fisher, Philip. 2002. The Vehement Passions. Princeton: Princeton
University Press.
Govier, Trudy. 2002. Forgiveness and Revenge. London: Routledge.
Griswold, Charles. 2007. Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration. New
York: Cambridge University Press.
Hamber, Brandon. 2009. Transforming Societies After Political Violence.
Dordrecht: Springer.
Heuer, Friderike, and Daniel Reisberg. 1992. Emotion, Arousal, and
Memory for Detail. In The Handbook of Emotion and Memory:
Research and Theory, edited by Sven-Ake Christianson, 15180. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Hornstein, S. L., and N. W. Mulligan. 2001. Memory of Action Events:
The Role of Objects in Memory of Self- and Other-Performed Tasks.
American Journal of Psychology 114, no. 2 (Summer): 199217.
Hughes, Paul. 1997. What Is Involved in Forgiving? Philosophia 25:
3349.
Ignatieff, Michael. 1998. The Warriors Honor: Ethnic War and the
Modern Conscience. London: Chatto and Windus.
Kosovo Web site. http://www.kosovo.net/kosbitka.html (last accessed 27
March 2010).
Lambert, Alan J., Laura Nesse Scherer, Chad Rogers, and Larry Jacoby.
2009. How Does Collective Memory Create a Sense of the Collective? In Memory in Mind and Culture, edited by Pascal Boyer and
James V. Wertsch, 194217. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Langer, Susanne. 1951. Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press.
Maitra, Ishani. 2009. Silencing Speech. Canadian Journal of Philosophy
39, no. 2 (June): 30938.
Margalit, Avishai. 2002. The Ethics of Memory. Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press.
Marshall, Tony F. 2003. Restorative Justice: An Overview. In A
Restorative Justice Reader: Texts, Sources, Context, edited by Gerry
Johnstone, 2846. Cullompton, U.K.: Willan.
Minow, Martha. 1998. Between Vengeance and Forgiveness. Boston:
Beacon Press.
r 2010 The Author
Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

FORGIVENESS AND COMMEMORATION

617

Murphy, Jeffrie. 2002. Forgiveness in Counseling: A Philosophical


Perspective. In Before Forgiving: Cautionary Views of Forgiveness in
Psychotherapy, edited by Sharon Lamb and Jeffrie Murphy, 4153.
New York: Oxford University Press.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1997. On the Uses and Disadvantages of History
for Life. In Untimely Meditations, translated by R. J. Hollingdale, 59
123. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Orangemen Web site. www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/
news-analysis-orangemen-ready-to-marchbut-will-they-have-to-retreat-once-again-647090.html (last accessed 27 March 2010).
Plumb, J. H. 2004. The Death of the Past. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Prinz, Jesse. 2008. Resisting the Linguistic Analogy: A Commentary on
Hauser, Young, and Cushman. In Moral Psychology, vol. 2: The
Cognitive Science of Morality: Intuition and Diversity, edited by Walter
Sinnott-Armstrong, 15770. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Rawls, John. 1971. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge. Mass.: Harvard
University Press.
Richards, Norvin. 1988. Forgiveness. Ethics 99, no. 1 (October): 7797.
Roediger, Henry L. III, Franklin M. Zaromb, and Andrew C. Butler.
2009. The Role of Repeated Retrieval in Shaping Collective Memory. In Memory in Mind and Culture, edited by Pascal Boyer and
James V. Wertsch, 13870. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Rotberg, Robert, and Dennis Thompson, editors. 2000. Truth v. Justice.
Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Sachs, David. 1981. How to Distinguish Self-Respect from Self-Esteem. Philosophy and Public Affairs 10, no. 4 (Autumn): 34660.
Singer, Jefferson A., and Martin A. Conway. 2008. Should We Forget
Forgetting? Memory Studies 1, no. 3:27985.
Smith, Nick. 2008. I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies. New York:
Cambridge University Press.
Stocker, Michael. 1996. Valuing Emotions. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Taylor, Gabriele. 1985. Pride, Shame and Guilt: Emotions of Self-Assessment. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Thompson, Janna. 2001. Historical Injustice and Reparation: Justifying
Claims of Descendants. Ethics 112, no. 1 (October): 11435.
. 2002. Taking Responsibility for the Past. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Walker, Margaret. 2006. Moral Repair: Reconstructing Moral Relations
After Wrongdoing. New York: Cambridge University Press.

r 2010 The Author


Journal compilation r 2010 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd